Rehearsals Day 2 – Soluna Shines

May 14, 2012 by

Rehearsals Day 2 – Soluna Shines

Israel started day 2 of rehearsals on a bright note – the backdrop for their song is a triumph incorporating an eye-grabbing montage of ticking clocks. This is one of the best set designs seen so far. And the lead singer of Izabo, Ran Shem-Tov, delivers a more than adequate vocal. The staging of this psychedelic tune looks like it’s going to be a success with a couple of backing singers, vocally drowned out by the instrumental on the first couple of run throughs – a sound issue that will surely be ironed out down the line – throwing in some retro shapes by way of a Pulp Ficton-esque front crawl as they join in singing the chorus on one side of the stage. As Jim Carrey’s character in ‘Dumb And Dumber’ would say, ‘I like it a lot’ but Israel remains something of a conundrum by way of its jury appeal and joins a long list of borderline qualifiers right now.
Valentina Monetta, as she displayed at the London ESC party, has a good voice. It’s just a shame for her she has been lumbered with such an inane song. She has a sparkly Mac laptop on a stand she taps away at playfully while singing, smiling along throughout looking like some deranged call centre operative. I guess it is ‘fun’… if you are about 5 years old. She has dancers who bring some energy to stage, dancing along with her and the backdrop is an interesting montage of Net-style images. While this is one of the better backdrops seen so far nothing can salvage the song. To continue referencing the movies, as Gordon Gekko would have said in ‘Wall Street’, ‘It’s a dog with fleas’.
Drum roll for the much-anticipated Ivi Adamou singing ‘La, La Love’ live… and it is not the expected car crash. Cyprus have done the best job possible at concealing Ivi’s vocal weakness. When they sing unassisted during warm up, it is noticeable how much weaker she is compared to her backing singers.
The staging involves Ivi standing on a plinth and carried at one point, which looks rather awkward, and while she dances it is stationary dancing and they have cleverly ensured she does not move very much at all on stage. There is a grey and white backdrop for this that isn’t really in keeping with such a bright, lively pop tune, but the Cypriats have pulled out all the stops to try and help Ivi here.
That said, hearing Ivi on the tv monitor in the press centre on the final run through her vocal sounded a whole lot worse than it did in the arena. There were some serious bum notes struck. It was the Ivi we had heard in previous live online clips.
While Cyprus is beating Greece in terms of overall staging at this juncture, that’s not saying much and ‘La, La Love’ comes across as a waifer-thin pop tune not really suited to the big stage. This is only a hunch but you also sense Ivi could be the type of inexperienced artist to struggle under the pressure of singing in front of the juries and on live tv. Time will tell but for now it adds to a long list of borderline qualifiers in this perplexing 1st semi-final.
Soluna Samay sings ‘Should’ve Known Better’ and this is the strongest overall package seen so far at this year’s ESC. It is pretty much a carbon copy of the Danish national final but why fix it if it ain’t broke? Soluna has a superb vocal and the set, like the band are jamming in someone’s garage, is simple and effective. It just works. The backdrop works too – ‘changing like the weather’ is a lyric in the song and we see this in the soft, warm colours of the changing landscape behind Soluna. She finds the camera well . Having had reservations about Soluna’s choice of outfit – the same that she wore in the Danish NP – it actually fits nicely with the busker style of her eclectic band. On screen it comes across as endearing and viewer-friendly.

Some may label Denmark’s song middle-of-the-road but that can often be a positive at Eurovision and in Denmark’s case this year it can only be considered middle-of-the-road in a good way, like Azerbaijan last year. It does everything it says on the tin, and does it very well. It’s hard to see this not achieving a high ranking with both juries and televoters and it looks a strong contender to win this semi.
Now for the joker of this semi: Buranovskiye Babushki. A case of from the sublime to the ridiculous. Their dancing is amusingly shambolic – highly in keeping with the vibe of this song – so much so the choreographers are on stage helping to prompt them as to what to do next on the first run through. At the start they stand in front of an old monument which offers a smoking chimney prior to the endearing seniors inviting us to dance with them. One of the Babushki later offers a tray to the audience… to dance on? Who knows. Maybe bread or cakes will appear later down the line. The backdrop lighting effects are very disco. For televoters who base their voting on novelty alone this is probably high art.
This is no front page exclusive but juries will crucify it. How many loons there are across Europe who will be inspired to vote for it is a different matter, but you are left with the over-riding sense the continent will have to collectively lose its marbles on the night to get this over the line in first place in semi 1. Russia could well prove a worthwhile lay to finish top 3 in semi 1 and while you may scoff, in as competitive a semi as this is shaping up to be, it doesn’t even look a certain qualifier. The rest of Europe is not necessarily as novelty tune-friendly as the UK and on a Tuesday night it may not capture the impressive televote many think is a given, especially with the novelty factor set to maximum in this semi.
Back to some proper music in the shape of Hungary. And this, along with Denmark, goes to the top of the class. It is so much better suited to a big arena. A vast improvement on what we saw at the Hungarian national final. The lead singer’s vocal is on the money and they have wisely added a female backing singer to the group to aid him with a few of the trickier notes. This could do with much better camera angles though, and focus more on the lead singer. He is the first performer this week to utilise one of the walkways that extend from either side of the stage. Coming out to greet the audience like this could prove an engaging masterstroke. But with a guitarist using the other walkway, they cut lonely figures on the wide angle shots. Is there room for both Switzerland and Hungary to qualify from this semi? Not impossible as both are shaping up well so far.
Another head-scratcher follows in the form of Trackshittaz’s rap tune. Three girls join the band on stage in luminous, short green skirts and perform some limber moves on poles. At one point Manuel is distracted from singing as he watches the girls go about their pole-dancing, and is dragged back to the song by Lukas. The interplay is very much in keeping with the tune – fun and cheeky. The staging of this is a triumph already and the Hungarian delegation should take note of how the band work the camera. This is already a guilty pleasure. Can it qualify? It would be folly to write it off.
If only Pasha Parfeny was singing his tune from 2011, ‘Dorule’. ‘Lautar’ isn’t nearly as strong and in the fun stakes it is probably losing out to Austria. But Moldova possesses far greater voting strength in this semi – yet another quandary to ponder. Pasha is aided by 5 dancers on stage, two of whom appear mic-ed up to help him with the vocals. How best to describe the choreography for this tune? Quirky…? The dance movements are part zombie/part horse and jockey, and towards the end they saddle up and gallop in single file down one of the walkways. The backdrop including bright images of trumpets isn’t as compelling as Zdob si Zdub last year and their flying witches. It’s still very ‘novel’ in the latter stage of this 2nd semi that is chock-full of novelty.
Talking of which, last up comes Jedward. First impression is, as hard as they’ve tried to replicate last year’s winning formula, the staging isn’t as effective. There’s a big water theme going on here with the twins standing in the middle of a fountain at one point. Four backing vocalists help them sound passable. It’s the same jackets as last year only glittery blue instead of glittery red, and the song incorporates, yes, you guessed it, an aqua blue, watery backdrop that could be a great advertisement for Evian. They probably have some more staging tricks up their sleeve yet. Last up will aid Ireland’s televote but it all comes across as attempting the same trick twice and ‘Waterline’ doesn’t wash with this viewer, pardon the pun.
So that’s semi 1 done and dusted, for now, and it’s a riddle wrapped up in an enigma with only 3 or 4 songs looking out of contention, and maybe only 5 songs looking like certs. Don’t believe the odds on Betfair – qualifying in this semi is wide open, and we could see some big odds on shots floored.
Rob Furber

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10 Comments

  1. Bruce

    Thanks for the speedy update. I hear you are getting treated better today in the press area – snacks indeed 🙂

    I think relatively speaking this ahas been a very strong round of first rehearsals, only Greece of the more favoured acts betting wise to dissapoint.

    I am in agreement with your assessment of qualifying being wide open. Plenty of scope for some upsets here. Russia? Jedward? I’m not even sure about them

    I’m a big Romania fan as you may have guessed – what do you think of the 5/4 on offer for a top 3 place in the semi? Seems short but I’m tempted

  2. Rob

    Hi Bruce. I am struggling to see Romania out of the top 3 in this first semi. Hope you were able to take some of the 12-1 e/w with WH as flagged up back on April 12. 5-4 does seem a little on the short side now. It may be optimistic but I’d hope for a slight drift to something bigger than that price on Betfair.

  3. dicksbits

    A puzzling selection of songs indeed. I can only see 2 definites to the final from here: Moldova and Russia. Despite the poor song I feel Russia will be pushed over the line due to the massive pre-contest publciity they’ve received , and the fact that so many people will want to see it in Saturday’s final.

    Denmark looked a little disappointing to me today – I still think she needs to ‘simplify’ her outfit. Her hair has grown out a bit since the national final and she needs to get it cut. Still a probably qualifier, despite Russia slightly overshadowing it.

    Israel – this remains a big MISS to me. Hungary – like the studio version, but I wasn’t impressed today on the youtube clip.

    Ireland – I think they’ll go through due to their late draw, and it’s a very commercial sound, despite not being as good as ‘Lipstick’.

  4. steve

    Hi Rob. Good to see you seem to be enjoying the experience still. Im not getting how Russia dont qualify its the focal point of this semi and a big part of Eurovision itself so whilst it wont do massively well with the juries (though it will still pick up points from its dispora juries). I think it will storm the televote so whilst its winning or top 4 place chances may have diminshed, its qualification chances and tp 10 in the final must have increased.

  5. fiveleaves

    Cheers for the latest update Rob.

    I agree about Denmark and it’s the one song that I can see winning from this semi, given a good draw in the final.

    Israel I can see qualifying now. A great backdrop and a polished performance.

    Cyprus was a pleasant surprise. On the video I saw the vocal was top notch throughout, apart from a small wobble about 2 mins in.
    I see it qualifying with ease and a value bet for top 10.

    Austria – A rap song with 3 pole dancers doesn’t shout qualifier to me.
    Maybe I’ve missed the irony.

    Ireland, a watered down version of last years effort from the terrible twins.
    I’m sure it will come over better on tv, but it doesn’t have the striking staging of last year.

    Hungary is one of my favourite songs in the contest, but as a live song and performance it’s just lacking, despite an improved vocal.
    An iffy qualifier for me now and I see Switzerland maybe taking it’s place.

    I look foward to the next update.

  6. fiveleaves

    ..oh and I love Moldova.
    A strong vocal. An excellent and fun routine and a better song than last year.
    It could take votes from the likes of Jedward & Romania

  7. Rob

    dicksbits and steve – you may well be right regarding Russia. I’m not so sure big publicity equates to big televotes across Europe on a Tuesday night. It felt like a very long 3 minutes yesterday and a smile didn’t crack my face once – though that may have been more down to lack of hot food and being a miserable curmudgeon by nature 🙂 I guess we also need to factor in national broadcasters going into overdrive when the grannies take to the stage, and those sat at home being encouraged by presenters to take these ladies to their hearts. I can imagine Scott Mills and Sarah Cox gushing over them as ‘so Eurovision-y’ etc etc.

    fiveleaves & dicksbits – I suggest caution regarding Moldova. If you look back on 2011 Moldova had similar voting strength in its semi and only scrambled home in 10th by 1 point. Admittedly it was drawn 7 whereas this year it is (in theory) better drawn in 17. I am a fan of Pasha Parfeny but the staging is nowhere near as evocative as Zdob si Zdub and the song is not as strong. Eccentric, yes but it wasn’t as much fun as Austria and also has the grannies and Jedward to contend with at the end of this semi. Overall, I think its qualifying odds are too short regardless of its excellent qualification record.

  8. Rob

    And the ‘monument’ I described in the post was apparently a cooker – hence producing the tray and offering some baked goods, presumably, to viewers.

  9. dicksbits

    Rob – Russia. I just think that if you come to it as a fresh viewer, as I know you try to do (and noting the partisan crown in the Baku press centre who believe all the hype), I still think Russia has so much else going for it despite being a poor song to push it right up there. Remember 2010? That awful Russian whaling song came in about 5th. Voting partners may have changed, but still I think it’s novelty enough in the right way to push top 4. If it gets drawn 2-7 in the grand final then it won’t win, or if it did it will be a tighter fight.

    Moldova – I take onboard what you’re saying, but I do think that this is a VERY catchy tune. I played all the preview videos in performance order to two separate people, and they picked out Moldova as catchy, memorable and pleasing. 11/2 for top 10 in the grand final has got to look good, wouldn’t you agree?

  10. dicksbits

    This is a very early prediction and I will refine it as I go alone but my 10 qualifiers from what I’ve read about on your blog and on sofa bet and having watched all the youtube clips two or three times (and taking into account that there could be refinements in performance for next week) are:

    Definite: Russia, Moldova, Denmark, Albania, Romania, Iceland.

    Very likely: Ireland.

    Possible: Finland, Hungary, Austria.

    My weak ones of the pack there are FINLAND and AUSTRIA. Language barrier doubts and lack of neighbourly friends on the first, and bad tune/poor novelty on the second. I toyed with San Marino ONLY because despite the wacky lyrics it’s catchy as hell and there may be a constituency to scrape it through 10th. I KNOW people will laugh at me about this, but she performed it well. Drawback being that Cyprus is immediately after it. I think that is the most overhyped song of the season. Her vocal can’t be relied on and it’s not a very good song.

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